New Iran Barkley Interview: What Happened to Boxing in New York State?

By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent


In a new Real Combat Media interview exclusive certain to send shockwaves through the New York State Athletic Commission and the New York boxing community, former world middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight champion Iran ‘The Blade’ Barkley, who lives in New York City, stated his particular views on the current state of decline of boxing in New York State, and how he would fix it.


Robert Brizel:Iran ‘The Blade’ Barkley. Since the decision to require a million dollars life insurance per fighter per event in boxing and Mixed Martial Arts in New York State, all of the boxing promoters seem to be leaving New York in droves. They certainly have money. In your opinion, what happened?”


Iran Barkley: “Well, boxing became too expensive (for promoters in New York State). I believe that is what happened. The promoters don’t want to pay the insurance and the fees for their fighters. It has become hard to box in New York State.”


Robert Brizel: “What is the solution? Do you think the state legislature should or will change the amount of (the required fighter) life insurance down to a lower level, or not? Your view.”


Iran Barkley: “The New York State Legislature is going to have to lower the boxing and MMA fighter life insurance rate if want boxing back in New York. If the legislature doesn’t change the life insurance rate, boxing will be left like it is (now) in New York (dead).”


Robert Brizel: “Will MMA be affected by the high life insurance rates per MMA fighter?”


Iran Barkley: “MMA is going to have their share of difficulties. They are going to be paying out five million or ten million dollars of life insurance for their events. Worse, the MMA gloves are worse than boxing gloves.”


Robert Brizel: “Do you think there will be more injuries in MMA?”


Iran Barkley: “Yeah, there are going to be more injuries in MMA. And that’s where the brain injuries are going to start occurring in the future, more so than boxing.”


Robert Brizel: “The New York State Athletic Commission currently sits, it functions, with no Executive Director since David Berlin was fired. Ndidi Massay is the acting chairman. Do you think it has to do with athlete’s injuries, or do you think the commission is just troubled?”


Iran Barkley: “In New York (at this point), it doesn’t matter who they put in there as commissioner, David Berlin or anybody else. They’ve got to regulate everything right. Boxing is a form of entertainment. New York is the mecca of boxing, so they gotta do what they gotta do. People have to be able to attend events, and enjoy fighting.”


Robert Brizel: “Would you consider running the New York State Athletic Commission at this point, or is that a job you don’t want?”


Iran Barkley: “I wouldn’t get on the New York State Athletic Commission. If I was to get it, I would make the rules much better, so there would be more fights and cards every year. In New York, boxing is entertainment.”


Robert Brizel: “Iran, you have a close relationship on a first name basis with a lot of the fighters in New York in recent years. You certainly know Lou DiBella, Joe DeGuardia, Russell Peltz, Felipe Gomez, Kevin O’Sullivan, Greg Cohen… basically know everybody. What happens now? Is there anything you can say to them, or the state legislature, to bring boxing back to New York, or is boxing doomed to be gone from new York for a long time now?”


Iran Barkley: “New York is the mecca state of boxing. What good are the changes? They are not going to help the people in New York who want to see boxing. They aren’t going to travel out of state to see boxing. They even drove out or take the railroad to see boxing in New York State, even on Long Island. Now, there ain’t gonna be no boxing in New York, and that’s a doggone shame.”


Robert Brizel: “What about Madison Square Garden and the Barclay’s Center? A lot of boxing events were booked in advance. Do you think these events will be cancelled?”


Iran Barkley: “Barclay’s Center wants to put money into boxing. Madison Square Garden I don’t know. Kind of flim-flam. If they don’t want to put money out for their team (The New York Knicks) then they are not gonna put money out for the boxing.”


Robert Brizel: “Iran, you have enjoyed watching boxing in a number of venues. We’ve been together at B.B. King’s in Manhattan, Webster Hall in Manhattan, Aviator Arena in Brooklyn, Long Island University Brooklyn……we’ve done a lot of local shows. Do you think there is any possibility for the local boxing shows to come back at this point, or do you think that is over too?”


Iran Barkley: “Everything is over with that million dollar life insurance requirement per boxing and MMA fighter per event, or however every many millions it will cost the promoters with that stipulation. The New York State boxing promoters are not going to spent that king of money. What about the smaller guys (promoters) can cannot afford that kind of money?”


Robert Brizel: “Some of the New York boxing promoters have been running to other cities?”


Iran Barkley: “It’s cheaper and better for the New York boxing promoters to take their shows to other cities. Now the boxing fans in New York will have to watch these shows on television or cable, something like that.”


Robert Brizel: “Blade, do you watch a lot of boxing on television yourself?”


Iran Barkley: “I watch certain fights and certain things.”


Robert Brizel: “Do you watch football or baseball on television?”


Iran Barkley: “Not football. Baseball sometimes. I’m interested in all sports, but I mainly just watch boxing. Baseball I’m into. I’m not watching it (much) because I’m bored.”


Robert Brizel: “Your boxing license is still active very year in New York. Correct?”


Iran Barkley: “Yes. It is.”


Robert Brizel: “Is the purpose of keeping your boxing license active just to know you’re okay? (by the medical tests).”


Iran Barkley: “most of the time, yeah, just to know I’m okay. Maybe I’ll get a lump sum (to fight again). Maybe I want to promote. I’ll do what I gotta do there.”


Robert Brizel: “If you were to start Iran Barkley Promotions with some of the local fighters, do you think it would ever get started in New York?”


Iran Barkley: “That’s where I would start it. New York is the mecca of boxing. I mean, boxing does not need to be turned out all over the country. I would do it (promotion) for the fans who enjoy boxing. It’s sad we don’t have that entertainment right now.”


Robert Brizel: “Blade, you were at The Garden the night heavyweight Magomed Abdusalamov got hurt after his WBC (USNBC) 10 round title bout with Mike Perez (November 2, 2013). The New York State Athletic Commission has turned over at the top several times, which doesn’t lead to stability. What in your view went wrong that night at The Garden, and how did it affect the decision to increase the cost of life insurance for professional boxers and MMA fighters in New York?”


Iran Barkley: “They should not have increased the cost of life insurance for fighters per event in New York. To me, the referee, Benjy Esteves Jr., should have had more control over that fight. He should have stopped that fight. There would not have been an injury like that (brain injury). They should have called the fight off. When Perez caught Abdusalamov later in the fight, that’s when everything happened (began to go wrong).  Esteves should have stopped the bout when Perez pulled him apart the first time, like the third or fourth round, something like that.”


Robert Brizel: “Perez threw a forearm which broke Abdusalamov’s nose in the first round. Do you think the referee should have stopped it then, or the fighter has the option of continuing?”


Iran Barkley: “Abdusalamov was getting pummeled a little. Maybe the referee should have stopped it then. He should have stopped it after this happened and he pulled them apart. Abdusalamov would have had time to recover. The fight was over. I think it was a tough fight, a banging fight. In that kind of a brutal fight, the referee should have said no, and that’s it.”


Robert Brizel: “And now, the NYSAC, the New York State Legislature, and all of the boxing and MMA promoters are accountable for the consequences of that one fight?”


Iran Barkley: “Yeah! Everybody’s paying for this one fight. Common sense. Everybody could have exercised common sense. When the referee pulled them apart, he could have called the fight off when he pulled them apart. He could have stopped the fight.”


Robert Brizel: “Do you think the fight continued because both fighters were unbeaten, and both felt a lot was at stake.”


Iran Barkley: “Yeah, there was a lot at stake. When this Cuban kid Mike Perez came over here from Ireland, they should have just called the fight off when Abdusalamov got hurt, and given it to him. Then we wouldn’t be going through what we are going through in New York State now.”





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